GLASGOW Warriors head coach Danny Wilson says that negotiations are at an advanced stage to add to the already impressive cast of imported talent at Scotstoun who have played a major role in contributing to a positive end to 2021.
No 8 Jack Dempsey, centre Sione Tuipulotu and full-back Josh McKay have added real bite to the team since their recruitment from the southern hemisphere during the first half of the current season, while the homecoming of prop Jamie Bhatti and stand-off Duncan Weir has added valuable depth to the squad.
“It is more of the same in terms of signings to the identity we want to play to,” said the former Scotland forwards coach. “It is not just with the ball – there is obviously the defensive and set-piece element we need as a platform too – so at times we can play that pragmatic game we are showing we can play.
“If you look at Jack, at Sione, at Josh, recently, those three guys have made a massive impact. They are the types of players we identified we wanted to sign and went after.
“I think they’ve been successful signings so far and there are more of that calibre, more of that type of player we want to bring, while obviously maintaining our responsibility to develop and bring through young Scottish players and expose our Scottish internationals and keep them.
“My current remit – alongside winning games of rugby – is building a squad that will allow us to do that in future. I am in the middle of that now. You have seen some of the recruitment announcements we have made already and there is more to come. We are building towards it but there is a lot more to come.”
Wilson stressed that nurturing homegrown talent is also key to his long-term strategy, with the emergence of youngsters such as Ross Thompson, Rufus McLean and Rory Darge as central figures in the team providing evidence of his success on this front.
He also highlighted that Warriors have recently managed to extend the contracts of both of the club’s recent British & Irish Lions tourists – Ali Price [last month] and Zander Fagerson [in July] – as well as invest in the previously mentioned overseas imports.
“Ali Price’s re-signing to me is a massive statement from the club,” said Wilson. “As you can imagine, Ali had plenty of options on the table as the best nine from a British & Irish Lions point of view and possibly more.
“For him to choose to stay at the club shows where he is at and, hopefully, we can attract and keep those type of players.
“Zander’s re-signing – that’s both our Lions – is another one,” Wilson added. “They are positive steps forward. t is a balancing act getting all those things right.
“Then you look at the youngsters, the likes of Rory Darge and Ross Thompson coming through, and I think you’ll see Gregor Brown and another couple of second rows and props I am excited about making an impact during the next year.
“It is important we bring those guys through as well because the responsibility and aim of our club has got to be to produce and bring through Scottish internationals – that is the big picture.
“But there needs to be a sprinkling of quality foreign signings to help develop those Scottish players and also to make you as competitive as possible.
“When we do our recruitment, it is a very joined-up approach in Scotland, very different to what I experienced in Wales. It is about having the right people around the table to discuss it and make the decisions.
“Our squad at the moment is around 80-85 percent Scottish qualified. That is a good guideline – to be around that 80% figure. The responsibility and aim of our two clubs [along with Edinburgh] has got to be to produce and bring through Scottish internationals – it has to be. That is the big picture.
“But there needs to be a sprinkling of quality foreign signings to help develop those Scottish players and also to make you as competitive as possible. I am quite proud we are around that 80 percent Scottish figure and winning games of rugby. That has to be our aim, but it is not set in stone you have to be at this figure.”
Warriors signed off 2021 with an excellent home win over Exeter Chiefs in the European Champions Cup a fortnight ago, and while a Covid outbreak in the squad means their 1872 Cup double-header has had to be postponed, Wilson was in no doubt that the overall outlook is much better now than when the team found itself in a similarly locked-down situation 12 months ago.
“We are coming out of a good bonus-point win against the Dragons, a reasonably good performance at La Rochelle to get a losing bonus point, and then a really good performance at home to beat Exeter,” he said.
“We all wanted to go again and keep that momentum, so it’s a shame and it’s frustrating that these games have had to be called off and we almost have to get going again, but I’m very confident that we’ll do that quickly. It’s the same group of players and hopefully we’ll kick on to Ospreys [next Saturday] then back into Europe [the week after].”